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Camp News

2024 Annual Meeting & Crystal Balling

Even hikers have meetings, so here’s the news from the Conservancy’s annual meeting, including the “Six Eras of Sturtevant” and speculations about re-opening in 2024.

The Quick-Hike Version

The Conservancy’s seven directors met Jan.28th at the Adams Pack Station to elect officers, look into the future, and figure out what to do next. Easily the biggest item on the agenda was “if the Forest Service opens the Canyon in 2024, how do we open for guests?”

Since the 2020 fire, the main job has been on-site repair and recovery. But being shut down also paused online functions like reservations and accounting systems. That created an opportunity to re-think and rebuild those services. With opening on the horizon, that work has moved up on the To-Do list.

Still, the trail is at the top of the list: thanks to the superheroes of Restoration Legacy Crew, the path is almost clear for the burros to get to Camp.  When they do, the final parts and materials will start arriving for rebuilding the water system, and water will be the top priority for opening to the public.

So pretty much everything both in-Camp and on-line has jumped to the top of the Must-Do-Right-Away-Now list: time to lace up all boots!

The Six Eras of Sturtevant   

There’s so much to be done almost immediately that the Board’s “get’er done” Directors were tempted to jump in boots first. Instead, the annual meeting started with a bigger picture of where are we, and where are we going? Taking a cue from Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour”, here are the Six Eras of Sturtevant.

  1. 1893 – 1910 The Founding Era: Wilbur establishes the Camp and builds it to national renown; after a stroke levels him, he later passes at LA’s Veteran’s Home in 1910. 
  2. 1911-1946 Transition Era-I: The Camp passes through several hands and often stands empty and for sale for many years. After the last private owner is arrested for misconduct, the Forest Service seizes the property and puts it up for sale under a public permit.
  3. 1947-2015 The Methodist Era: Riding the wave of post-WWII growth, the regional Methodist Church buys the Camp. They build up the Camp with a commercial kitchen, bathhouse and bunkhouses, and for nearly seventy years sustain year-round operations for private and public use.
  4. 2011-2020 Transition Era-II: With the mutual decline in youth camping and mainline denominations, the Church moves to close and sell the Camp. A volunteer Boot Squad steps up to sustain the Camp until the Friends of the San Gabriels purchases the Camp in 2015; in 2016 the Sturtevant Conservancy is formed to take on stewardship of the Camp as a public non-profit.  
  5. Fall 2020 – Spring 2024 Fire & Rain & Recovery Era: a time marked decisively by the Bobcat Fire and subsequent weather impacts that equaled if not exceeded the damages and complications of the Fire.

The Sixth Era – Renaissance: 2025 – 2043

Once Sturtevant re-opens, the Conservancy is aiming for a renaissance of the Founding Era, renewing the Camp to be the uniquely historic center of wilderness appreciation, education and inspiration in the San Gabriels for greater Los Angeles.

The Renaissance Era will culminate in 2043, when everyone joins in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Wilbur setting up tents near the running waters of the upper Big Santa Anita, and welcoming sturdy hikers for many more generations to come.

Officers Elected, Classes Filled

Board members around the table at the Pack Station.

In 2023, the Board adopted an amplified set of Bylaws; these are the map and compass for the Board’s navigation of its duties. During the 2024 Annual Meeting, the Board started to enact the details of those Bylaws.

This included electing the following officers: Gary Keene, President/CEO and Chair of the Board; Sarah Barron, Vice-President and CFO; and Kelly Davidson, Recording Secretary. The Board also assigned the titles and work of Treasurer to Jennifer Berry, and of Bookkeeper to Kelly Davidson. In addition, members were distributed into classes with successive 3-year terms of service.

The Board members are also organized internally around the key managerial functions: site/operations, administration/finance, guests/hospitality and general supervision. This spreads the work equitably among the Directors as a team. For a closer look, go to https://www.sturtevantcamp.com/who-we-are/

Stuff to Figure Out & Look Forward To   

Volunteers ready to hike after a day’s work in Camp.

The Camp is a registered non-profit, and a business that needs to generate income. What business is that? Sturtevant is basically a “hostelry”, a ‘place of lodging in the country’. But what a place! There’s really no equivalent for comparison, especially when you consider the Camp’s wilderness proximity to people—downtown Los Angeles is 23 miles from the Chantry Flats trailhead.

That means it is available to millions close by, except for that 4.2 mile hike in and out! Which is also how everything comes and goes: via the trail, carried on the backs of a people and burros.

So what should be the price for maintaining a hot shower at the end of such a trail? And a flush toilet? And built roof and walls above and around, plus wall heaters, mattresses, pillows, and OBTW a full kitchen, refrigerators, potable water and more (how about that Big Swing?)

Sleeping in the wilderness looks comfy in the Retreat Cabin.

All that said, staying at Sturtevant is not glamping: no hot tub or chocolates on those pillows (the mice would get them first anyway.) Camp is historic, which is to say rustic, and even with all the planned improvements, it will stay rustic; not only because of its location, but because that is essential to its authenticity and charm.

Bottom line, the Board has set aside a smaller group to analyze what would be reasonable rates to cover costs and plan for the future, and then how to market all of it effectively. Public feedback is totally welcome here in the comments, so speak up and help the Camp find and serve the next generation of guests.

NEXT BIGCONESPRUCE BLOG

Maybe? Scenes of the Adams Pack Train burros hauling into Camp!

Sturtevant Camp is owned and operated as a non-profit for the benefit of the public by the Sturtevant Conservancy Board (https://www.sturtevantcamp.com/who-we-are/).

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Camp News

So Many Boots & Wishes

Board members Paul and Teah (L+R) welcome new member Jennifer (center) at Camp.

2023 In the Rearview Mirror

With this year wrapping up, we’re looking backward and forward: backward to check our progress and say thanks to everyone who got us to where we are; and forward to strategize progress in 2024. From the perspective of the Sturtevant Conservancy, here’s what we see:  

Another volunteer crew prepares to head home after working in Camp. Volunteers were at Sturtevant 63% of weekends in 2023.

This year’s holiday gifts won’t need to be wrapped, because most have already been received, with gratitude: THANK YOU to all the Camp’s volunteers and supporters who have worked hard and given generously this year. Like Santa, we’ve checked who’s been naughty and nice—ok, just nice, and can report the following as of early December:

107 people volunteered over 32 weekends in 2023, for a total of 164 per-person/workdays (one person volunteering one day.) Twelve of those work weekends were overnights, expanding the work accomplished and netting more work per round-trip hike—which, at about 9 miles per person/per work event equals just short of 1000 miles. How much total elevation gain was in that? Almost 60 miles, or 11 trips up Mt. Everest, or 55 times up Mt. Wilson!

Triple-threat of volunteer sawyers working the storm-blocked trail.

That’s a lot of miles on knees and boots, but that’s just to get to where the work starts. Then there’s shoveling, painting, hauling, plumbing, cleaning, re-wiring and repairing – all kinds of muscles and skills donated. Given a typical workday (not including the commute to Chantry) is about 9 hours or the same number as the hiking miles, the total volunteer hours also equals nearly one thousand.

What generosity! Thank you to everyone who got up early, shouldered a pack, made the hike, shared the food and fellowship, and moved Sturtevant another step toward welcoming guests back to Camp.

VOTY’23

After going through the work records to get the above report, it became obvious that one volunteer had a big impact on those numbers: Scott Wilson made the hike on average once every month all year. That’s head and trademark Stetson hat above everyone else. Site/Ops Manager Paul Witman also confirmed that Scott is a jack-knife of many trades, shoveling, plumbing, bear patrolling, way-finding, and hustling some very tricky sawyer work, all with a smile and his inevitable thumbs-up.

Although Scott is a regular at Camp, when not working for the City of LA, he’s also laying down the miles hiking all over the San Gabriels and Sierra Nevada ranges, and not necessarily on established trails: he recently located the remote location of Wilbur Sturtevant’s ‘hide-away.’

So there are stories to tell, but for now it’s a privilege and pleasure to announce Scott is the Conservancy’s Volunteer of the Year 2023. Thank you Scott!

Progress Report – Sort Of 

Volunteers scramble up the scratch trail along the White Cliffs on the way to work at Camp.

While the Camp remains closed under of the USFS post-fire order, we can’t welcome guests and serve the public, so we don’t have people stories to tell. Instead, the story is mostly about the place: the Camp in the Wilderness.

On the grand arc of Camp history, the Bobcat Fire is the apex of environmental and physical impact. But after the winter of late ’22 – early ’23, the record-breaking “atmospheric rivers” are first runner-up. Consider: the green bridge at Robert’s didn’t wash out right after the Fire in 2020, or in ‘21 or ‘22, but this year.

Volunteers trekking across a post-storm stream to get to Camp.

The loss of the bridge indicated what happened up and down the Canyon: prior recovery work washed away, new washouts and rockfall and nearly continuous tree-fall, plus a new version of the infamous Ladder Gap keeping the pack train blocked from getting up to Camp.

View of the center of Camp in mid-March after another storm, buried in tree-fall blown out of the upper forest canopy.

But not the burros only: volunteers hiking into Camp had to factor in extra risk and time and trail work just to get there. Once in Camp, broken roofs, washed out plumbing and heavy treefall have diverted volunteer hours from post-Fire recovery work to post-rain clean-up and fix-it jobs. Instead of making progress, we had to scramble just to get back to the starting line.

No complaints, just the reality of working in the temperamental wilderness. The abundant rains did gift the Camp with water flowing in the ‘old/main’ line for the first time after many years of drought. And other than the cracked roofs and accompanying water damage, there were no structural losses. Plus now there’s enough firewood to last a very long time! 

Trenching shown here in December finally undergrounded the last of the old overhead power lines.

2024 Crystal Ball

Looking into the new year, there are two scenarios on a single coin: that coin is the weather, with  another El Niño rainy season predicted. The two scenarios are whether the U.S. Forest Service opens the Canyon to the public—or keeps it closed. For now, what will happen is a toss of the coin.

That makes planning difficult, but the Conservancy remains fortunate because, as long as the Camp is closed, there are no significant fixed operating costs (no staff, etc.) Financially, we can ‘afford’ to sit and wait.

But the physical Camp cannot wait; the wilderness steadily degrades paint and wood and plumbing and shingles. The Camp has had only minimal maintenance for going on four years now, as volunteers have instead hustled to open the trail, recover the water system, and repair the post-Fire bear damage plus this past season’s weather effects.

Even the innocent Nature Trail sign got smacked by storm-fall.

For example, Site/Operations Manager Paul Witman notes that several roofs (including the main Lodge) are overdue for replacement; but for that you need shingles – lots of ‘em!—and until the pack train can get through to deliver those supplies, we’re stalled.

So the focus of physical work is, like the flipping coin, on two sides: one is in/at Camp, the other on trail access for crucial materials a.s.a.p. Thanks to the hard work of allied volunteer groups like Restoration Legacy Crew, there’s real hope for getting the burros through after the start of the new year.

Restoration Legacy Crew pauses on the new tread they carved out of solid rock at the infamous Ladder Gap.

The silver lining in the closure is it gives time for work on reimagining and updating many of the supporting systems for welcoming and managing guests. These include the on-line reservations system, payment and fiscal/accounting systems, guest orientation, safety and related policies, and time for a more thorough recruitment and training program for hosts.

Wishing for the Big Day

When the USFS opens the Canyon, we aim to hit the trail running, to stay ahead of the crowds of people who are already clamoring to get into the Big Santa Anita. Before that, when the pack train finally gets through, the work will double-up as supplies are received and the post-fire burn debris is packed out. We’ll be able to both purchase and deliver shingles, lumber, paint and more.

All depending on the balance in the checkbook.

Yes, your financial gift now will prime the pump for 2024. We’re looking forward to the first wave of guests, seeing their smiles, and especially the delighted surprise of returning hikers seeing the Camp in good condition after the fire and storms of these past years.     

Get in on making those smiles with your timely gift this season: http://www.sturtevantcamp.com/support/

And thanks for being part of the future.

The Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy: Jennifer, Brent, Kelly, Teah, Paul, Sarah and Gary.

The Sturtevant Conservancy is a 501(3)c non-profit eligible for charitable donations.

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Camp News

New Faces, Lost Hikers and Rockwork

Welcome New Board Member

Jennifer Berry

The Sturtevant Conservancy is pleased to welcome its newest member to the Board, Jennifer Berry. With her election, the Board now has its full complement of seven Directors; this will enable the Board to share the offices and work of the Conservancy more evenly and be more effective collectively.  Jennifer comes from a solid background in environmental advocacy work and residential camping:  she previously served as site Director for Sturtevant’s historic sister-camp in the San Gabriels, Colby Ranch. She currently works for the National Outdoor Leadership School. Watch for her profile to be added soon to the Who We Are page on the Camp’s website.

All the Leaves Are Down / And the Sky is Grey

All the Leaves

‘Tis the season – for raking! Along with all the trail-work getting done (see below), one task dominates this time every year: raking big yellow maple leaves. At approx. 3150ft elevation, Camp is in the eco-zone of the upper Big Santa Anita Canyon where most of the trees are coniferous or evergreen, like oaks and Bay trees. But the maples make up for it! Lovely as they are, it’s a fire hazard, so: we rake.

Added to the job are the oak trees’ acorns—big, fat rollie ones after this year’s abundant rainfall. They carpet the trails, making it hard to get traction going up, and too easy to slide/fall down, often right where you don’t want to lose your step! Second verse same as the first: we rake.

Volunteers Mike, Grace, Danny and Robert pause at the Big Swing after a long day of work
Volunteers break for lunch on a perfect autumn day-surrounded by raking yet to be done
Jose, Scott, and Rick shovel out Cabin 3
Robert works down a bypass trail ahead of winter waters yet to come

The EOY Season

The smell of roasting turkey is coming fast, followed quickly by the fresh smell of snowflakes – at least higher up. In other words, the End of the Year. We’ll be back here in early December to report on this year, look ahead to 2024 (re-opening?!)

And yes, of course, to invite your tax-deductible financial support before 2023 disappears like Thanksgiving’s gravy and mashed potatoes. Stay tuned!

Lost & Not So Lost Hikers

The Big Santa Anita Canyon

The Camp is very lucky to have hard-working volunteers helping to reclaim the Camp from the Bobcat fire. And sometimes they go way beyond the planned work. Several times over recent months, hikers have come down into Camp from Mt. Wilson—singles and couples who “somehow” didn’t know or ignored not only the trail-head closure signs, but also websites (USFS, ours), social media and trails-app info.

Typically, they’re pretty trashed. There’s a reason the Canyon remains closed: the trails are in nasty shape, often impassable. Yet somehow they pushed through, hoping not to have to turn around and go back UP. Or, they ‘had a plan’ for how they would shuttle back to the top.

Recently, two incidents in the same weekend occurred: a solo hiker one day and then a pair the next day found themselves down the Canyon near Camp and the sun disappearing. A Camp volunteer took pity on the first and hiked the person safely out in the dark AND drove them home (their car was stuck behind the now-closed gate on Wilson.) The next day, the Sierra Madre Search & Rescue Team located the duo and got them out in the dark, putting themselves at risk to do so.

Hikers and trail-runners spread the word: the Big Santa Anita Canyon is STILL CLOSED. Save yourself AND those who would have to bail you out at risk to themselves, and enjoy the mountains elsewhere—there’s plenty to go around!

Or, Don’t Go There Either

https://laist.com/news/climate-environment/travel-site-puts-san-gabriel-mountains-on-its-annual-no-list

Rock On – Rock Off: Progress @ the Ladder Gap

There’s a Trail In There
Scoops, Brenda, Kevin and Michael on the rocks
RLC’s Diana and Kevin chip the hard rock while Guy pulls down the looser stuff

All hail the stubborn Restoration Legacy Crew! Brenda Beck and Dave Baumgartner have led this quiet group of talented volunteers for years in restoring trails throughout the San Gabriels. Now they’re literally hammering one spot several times a week, for multiple weeks in a row: it’s the infamous rock-bound Ladder Gap on the main trail up to Camp. Until the rock is chiseled back and the tread seriously firmed up, the Adams Pack train can’t get through, and much repair work at Camp remains stalled waiting for materials and supplies. The RLC folks aren’t fancy, but they’re sure tough and relentless—that should be their new name: the Relentless Legacy Crew! When the Pack Train finally gets through, and the Camp can be fully restored, it will be because of the RLC: thank you in advance very much! Check them out on-line, and plan on sampling their work once the Canyon opens.

Annual Meeting & Beyond

Board members Kelly Davidson and Paul Witman

The Conservancy has set their Annual meeting for 2024 in January (California non-profits are required to hold at least one annual meeting.) The Board has met regularly during the year for administrative house-keeping that will set-up the annual meeting to focus on the future: what are the goals prior to re-opening the Camp? And what are the goals beyond that?

The vision beyond re-opening could stretch 20 years to 2043, which will be the 150th anniversary of Wilbur’s opening Sturtevant’s Camp to the public. It’s a ripe opportunity to imagine—and strategize for—a vital future. Come along for the hike by signing up for this newsletter here.

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Camp News Camp Operations Reports

Annual Meeting, New Members, President’s Promises

Greetings from the Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy, and a belated Happy New Year.

There’s a wise saying that ‘If you would make God laugh, make a plan.’ Oh, we’ve made such plans, and God—or at least Mother Nature must be chuckling mightily. Part of the plan was to deliver an Annual Report for 2022 here in January; instead, we’ve been soaking our boots, scrambling over rocks, shoveling mud, and otherwise coping with 2023’s “atmospheric streams” that delivered 18.75 inches of unexpected but much needed rain to the Camp and Canyon.

It’s all good, just not what WE planned! With a little grace, we do ‘plan’ to deliver that fancy number-crunched annual report a bit later. If you’ve been following the updates on the Camp website and Wilbur’s Facebook page, you have a pretty good idea of the Camp’s on-going status: still closed with the Canyon’s closure, and still busy with volunteers struggling to get the water system in place—and that after doing a rocky boot-dance up and down the trail. For sure our volunteers are committed and won’t say quit.

Annual Meeting

We did fulfill one part of our planning by gathering for an official annual meeting of the Board in mid-January. This was a rare ‘down the hill’ and face to face meeting, that is, no hiking or other work involving carrying large objects or tools or digging. It was a special delight to reconnect with member Teah Vaughn-Piscopo after a long gap imposed by her becoming a mom this past summer, and extra-special that she brought new baby Ripley with her for introductions and toe-squeezing all around the group.

Among a wide-ranging agenda, early up was the election of two new members to the Board: it is with real pleasure that we welcome Kelly Davidson and Brent Pepper as directors/members at large to the Board (read their profiles below and later on the website.) Their addition expands the Conservancy slightly and definitely strengthens it.


Looking Forward

In time, the goal is to add 1-2 more members, along with a semi-formal circle of allies and advisors to address specific needs. In that mode, we were fortunate to have Adams’ Pack Station owner/operator Maggie Moran participate in the whole meeting: the Camp/Pack Station relationship is obviously symbiotic and crucial, and we look forward to working more closely, especially to integrate on-line guest reservations and packing needs.

Although we are entering a third year of shut-down with no business revenue and an uncertain re-opening date, what inspires confidence is how strong the Board is as a team, and the many volunteers who keep up their support by hiking, working, and sustaining their donations to the Camp’s future. And, frankly, although the big rains have added to our work and uncertainty, to see and especially hear the Big Santa Anita running loud and clear again is wonderful. No wonder we all keep coming back, and we’ll stay on track to welcome everyone back to Sturtevant as soon as possible – Mother Nature willing!

For the Board of Directors

  • Gary M. Keene, President / General Manager
  • Sarah Barron, Secretary of Record-Treasurer / Manager, Administration and Finance
  • Paul Witman, Manager, Site and Operations
  • Teah Vaughn-Piscopo, Manager, Guests and Hospitality
  • Kelly Davidson, Member at Large
  • Brent Pepper, Member at Large

Kelly Davidson

Since childhood, Kelly grew up spending every weekend or available time hiking around Big Santa Anita Canyon. Her passion for being in the canyon led to a volunteer position at Adams’ Pack Station, where she helped with store operations for nine years. Kelly currently works in the demanding field of property management, and brings those skills to the work of the Board and Camp operations. When she’s not in the Canyon, she spends her spare time as an avid VW/Audi enthusiast at automotive events such as Cars & Coffee and at the race track; she also enjoys gardening, reading a good book and relaxing on the beach. But hiking is her favorite activity because it leaves her with a clear mind and full cup of appreciation after spending time in nature. She is excited to continue volunteering and help give back the Camp as a special historical place that feels like a home for so many.

Brent Pepper

As a Mountain Ultra Trail runner, it’s only fitting that Brent’s first introduction to camp was during a training run. He soon joined the Camp’s volunteer ranks during the water-tank-hauling campaign of Fall 2021 and keeps coming back for more. Well-skilled in the use of a McCleod, Brent also brings a load of talent in digital media development and management to the Camp’s business needs. He sees the time serving on the Board and in Camp as his way of paying forward the opportunity for others to come into the canyon, make that four-plus mile trek to Camp, and enjoy the beauty and the solitude of the mountains. If he’s not in the Canyon, you can find him volunteering at endurance running events across Southern California, at work for his family’s furniture business, enjoying trails throughout the Angeles National Forest, or at home with his wife, son, and daughter in Ventura County.

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Camp News Reports Volunteer

Storm Report, Thanks to Deb, and Sturde’s Ask

Rain and Relandscaping

What 5″ of rain in 12 hours looks like going over the check dam behind the Main Lodge.

“Be careful of what you wish for.” True that! Water in the Canyon and at Camp has been in long-term short supply. But recent winter storms have deluged our wishes for rain, relandscaping the streambed (again), and creating new projects throughout the Camp. Most importantly, the rain is forcing not only more shoveling, but new strategies for capturing and delivering water into the Camp’s system. Stay tuned for news through the winter season and check the Camp’s and Wilbur’s Facebook pages for work-weekend updates.

Deb’s Long Run

Snapshot of Deb on video giving a tour of the Camp.

The winter of 2011 was grey with uncertainty; after nearly 70 years of owning the Camp, the regional United Methodist Church moved to shutter and sell the historic buildings and operations. Volunteers struggled to keep the Camp open, and after four years, the best option became real: Deb Burgess, a cabin owner and trail runner who had already stepped up to successfully build up the Pack Station, organized the Friends of the San Gabriels to fundraise and purchase the Camp. After lengthy – emphasize lengthy! – negotiations with the Forest Service and denomination, the keys were transferred in 2015.

Along with her mother Sue Burgess, Deb moved quickly to put the Camp on its own feet operationally and legally, filing to create the Sturtevant Conservancy. As President of the tiny board and ‘chief operating officer / packer / repair technician / etc.’, she almost single-handedly worked to bring the Camp into a new era of outreach and hospitality. Using her business savvy and a wide range of skills, from plumbing to crafts to advertising to decorating, all fueled by an endless dynamism that left others sucking wind to keep up, she upgraded and stabilized the Camp to serve its original purpose; welcoming people to a boot-based experience of the wilderness.

In time, running both the Pack Station and Camp, along with life’s many changes, began to wear heavy even on this mountain trail runner. As the Conservancy’s volunteer support base grew, Deb sold the Pack Station and moved up north to the Sierra foothills. After the Bobcat Fire destroyed her cabin in 2020, she stepped down as President/CEO of the Conservancy to focus on her own rebuilding efforts while continuing as an officer on the Board.

Deb on the old zip-line, as usual moving faster than anyone can keep up!

Earlier this year, Deb tried to resign to make room for new members, but that was immediately tabled! Many operational threads remained to be unwound and rewoven with new hands. With most of that work done, the Board has now acted to formally name Deb Burgess as “Founding President and Member Emeritus of the Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy”. This keeps her in an ex-officio/non-voting relationship to the Board, with the freedom to give the benefit of her experience and opinion any time she darn well pleases.

The Camp – and the public it serves – are indebted to Deb for taking on the huge task of transitioning the Camp at a darkly crucial time and putting it on a good path to the future. The Board, on behalf of the Canyon community and the hiking public, offers their gratitude, best wishes, and yes – happy trails. Thanks Deb!

Sturde’s Holiday Ask

Sturtevant Camp runs on two things: Desire and Dollars. Desire is what draws both hiker-guests and hiker-volunteers up the Canyon for the unique experience of ‘camping indoors’ at Sturtevant. Without desire, no boot hits the trail, no hot chocolate awaits in the Lodge, and no doors or pipes or anything gets fixed at Camp.

If desire is the Top Line of the Camp’s purpose, there is also a Bottom Line— the Dollars. The Camp doesn’t run on the free firewood laying around: there’s propane for stoves and fridges, filters and pipes for water and waste systems, and shingles on roofs keeping beds with pillows dry inside and so much more—SO much! All of it demands constant maintenance, repairs, and ideally, improvement.

This has been true since Wilbur “Sturde” Sturtevant built the Camp, but it is urgent this season. The Canyon has been closed for two years now with no revenue, and it’s unknown when the USFS will allow us to re-open for business. In the meantime, volunteers have been hustling to make critical repairs to the Camp following the Bobcat fire, but these are repairs, not the regular maintenance the Camp needs.

Fundraising for the big repairs has covered most of those costs, and now we need to make up for the absence of guest income to tackle the basic maintenance needed to re-open the Camp. We still have extensive bear damage to repair, deferred maintenance on the Lodge floor and ceiling, etc. The irony is that the closure gives our volunteers a window of opportunity to get that done – IF we have the dollars for materials and supplies, including lumber, paint, and more.

So, this is Sturde’s two-point holiday “ask”: first, your DESIRE to see the Camp sustained, improved, and readied for re-opening, and secondly DOLLARS to help make that happen. You can do the dollars at sturtevantcamp.com/support

And if some of your desire includes hiking to Camp and joining in the work got to sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer.

Thanks in advance for your generosity!

Road Open, Gate Closed

The first week of December, Chantry residents got word that the road construction crew would finish their work the following Tuesday. Residents and cabin owners hustled to deliver a tasty taco lunch and offer thanks to the remaining workers on their last day. Everyone enjoyed that gratifying sense of a (big) job finally done.

Which does not mean the road is open: the Canyon remains closed under the USFS order. But it will mean that Camp volunteers can come all the way up to Chantry Flats and start hiking (and hauling supplies) from there. For some residents, it will mean a return to full-time living at home, and for Maggie Moran and the Pack Station, a very big step toward re-opening for business. Stay tuned for breaking news!

Safety Stocking Stuffers for You & Yours

Check out this list from REI sporting goods…

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html

Looking Ahead to 2023

Our Annual Report, fresh faces on the Conservancy Board and at the USFS, and – you know – the latest on winter conditions in the Canyon and at Camp. Until then, Happy Holidays!

The Sturtevant Conservancy – Gary, Sarah, Paul, and Teah.

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Camp News Camp Operations Volunteer

Hot Summer News

What’s Boring?

Paul with plumbing parts

Frankly, the news from Camp is boring, for now. A lot of detail work on valves and pipes, and a lot of grunt-work doing fire clearance in & around Camp, plus brushwork on the trail. That’s cutting back all that tall green grass from this winter that’s gone brown. Also, many of the toasted and burned chaparral and smaller trees are finally sagging into and over the trail, and have to be clipped/cut back so the pack train can get through. That will be exciting news (the pack train delivering) but, later! Check back here in August for the latest.

Arbutus Comes Home

Meet Arbutus

After many years in hibernation elsewhere, ‘Arbutus, the electric green mule’ has finally come back home to Sturtevant. Designed to hand-truck propane tanks to and from the Camp using an electric bicycle wheel, its conception and journey parallels the recent history of the Canyon and the Camp.

Back in 2005, the Chantry Road was closed, similar to now, but because of a complete wash-out of one section, and an avalanche of rocky dirt on another. Although guests could (and did) hike down from Mt. Wilson, getting propane into Camp was “a problem”. With the road impassable, there was no way to get tanks filled and to the Pack Station for the burros to carry in. And without propane, there’d be no cooking, no heat in the cabins – and no happy campers!

How to bring tanks in and out from another trailhead? Doodling on a napkin, manager Chris Kasten and previous manager Gary Keene spit-balled a design for a tank carrier running on a car-battery powered electric bicycle wheel. Working with gravity, the carrier would roll a full tank down the Mt. Wilson trail, then turn around and boost an empty tank back to the top. They took the design to a bike shop that did the custom welding, and Chris named the contraption Arbutus (look it up!) Story continues below.

People, Who Need People

The crunch in summer air travel is mostly pegged to a shortage of staff—cabin stewards, gate personnel, etc. Those ‘front facing staff’ are the key to making the travel experience a positive one, while the mechanics and pilots work behind the scenes to actually deliver.

That’s similar to Camp: while the Conservancy works to get the water system working and the Camp ready for re-opening, it will be the Hosts who actually greet guests and help make their time at Camp a positive one. Those people (guests) need those people (hosts)!

The best hosts are ‘people people’ who know that “a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled”. It’s true that Hosts also manage a lot of the house-keeping, and Camp being the nearly 130 years old, they often have to step in to make repairs and keep things safe over the weekend. So hosting isn’t coasting through a weekend at Camp.

But in return, Hosts become part of a special team with customized access to the Camp and Canyon. The job criteria are simple: are you a people person who appreciates the Camp and wants to share that? Are you available to commit to a few weekends in Camp (on your own schedule) over the course of a year? Oh, and do you love to hike?! An updated job description and orientation program will be available this fall to get ready for the Camp’s re-opening. If you have been a host before or want to be considered, visit sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer and/or send an email stating your interest — we’re interested in you!

Bun Definitely in the Oven

Teah and Gary

If ever there was a “bun in the oven”, Ripley Vaughn-Piscopo was it! With her birthday coming VERY soon, a baby shower for her mom (and Conservancy Board member) Teah was in order. Maggie Moran offered her home and its expanded porch at Adams Pack Station as the location, so in the scorching heat of an early summer Sunday, immediate family and friends gathered on the deck with the burros braying in the background. Teah was (as always) the life of the party, accompanied by husband and future dad Graham (sweating not the delivery but the heat, along with everyone else!)

Maggie and guests

Maggie was Hostess with the mostest and emceed the party, which included cold beverages, tasty snacks, and some fun games (including real horseshoes). NO tails were pinned on any actual donkeys, but most guests did visit the pack train in the corral to meet Teah’s “extended family.”

Thanks to Maggie for providing a great place to celebrate (plus her custom cupcakes!), and to board members Sarah Barron and Gary Keene for organizing and refreshments. Thanks also to Patrick Kelly and Dave Nickoloff of the Canyon Patrol for staffing the gate to get all the guests in on time. News of Ripley’s arrival will be posted on Wilbur’s Facebook page. Stay tuned!

Arbutus Continued

Arbutus headed back home

The shop finished Arbutus right when Chris was scheduled to be away for a rare vacation, so Gary picked it up for the test run. Rolling the loaded rig down from the summit of Mt. Wilson while feathering the brake was a breeze. The next morning, he turned around with an empty tank loaded and headed up: a small lever actuated the battery supply, and the ‘mule’ pulled the tank up the trail about 20 yards— and died.

Whaaaat?! After a few moments, the green light came back on: power on, roll forward and up – and dead. In between pushing and dragging, this on/off pattern repeated for another 3/4s of a mile or so, then stayed dead. Gary reported, “What was usually an hour hike to the summit took over 3 hours and was the toughest I’ve ever done—Mt. Rainier included!”

Turns out back then there were two kinds of electric wheel: one to help you get going, and a different model that you pedaled first, then it would assist. Arbutus had the first one, although it is doubtful any version could conquer Mt. Wilson. As usual, Chris figured it out, swapped out the wheel, and switched the delivery route over to Newcomb’s Pass (driving the tanks on the F.S. road to the drop-off/pick-up point for a most downhill run in.)

Arbutus fulfilled its purpose, carrying propane and groceries and repair supplies into Camp until the Chantry Road was repaired and re-opened. Then it got moved over to another Methodist camp in Wrightwood, where it languished for many years. With the closure of the Chantry road for a new bridge this season, Gary (as current General Manager) got to wondering where the it had gone to hibernate.

The green mule was recovered and turned over to John “JT” Thompson, the Camp’s ex-officio electrical wizard (who also happens to be a cyclist.) He renovated Arbutus, giving it two ‘tiny but mighty’ nicad batteries in place of the old car battery. Fourth of July weekend, a work team delivered Arbutus up the trail—or rather, chased it up the Canyon: with no load (this time!), the tire was skipping and pulling fast over rocks and roots, tossing dust and mud in the face of the drivers.

Next it will be tested for carrying various supplies in and out of Camp; eventually it will stay in Camp and help volunteers move propane tanks around the cabins, bathhouse and dining hall. No carrots, but regular re-charging should keep it in service for many years to come – check it out when you finally get back to Camp!

Binocular Report

While the Canyon is closed this summer, the Conservancy’s “backpack” is full of work: installing the filter and valve system for the water tanks, getting the pack train up to Camp, recruiting a new cadre of hosts, developing marketing before the Forest opens, plenty of repairs and maintenance on site – in other words, we’re keeping our boots laced up and ask you to do the same with a visit to sturtevantcamp.com/support

Categories
Camp News Camp Operations Reports

Good News & Other News for 2022

Last Year’s News for 2022

The work crew putting the safety line to good use across the Slide Rock Gap: L-R board members Paul Witman and Sarah Barron (rock climber and rope-slinger), with Brent Pepper and Scott Wilson. All made it safely across.

It never rains in California, until it does. Then it really does! The end of year holiday rain and snowfall made the national news and has been the intense focus of everyone in Big Santa Anita Canyon.

Since the Bobcat fire, Sturtevant Camp volunteers have been double-tasking: working on recovery in camp and shoveling a lot of rock and gravel just to get into camp.

Now the rains have done real damage and reshaped most of the canyon stream bed. The damage includes complete loss of sections of the trail to sharp, often steep washouts. Side canyons became roaring torrents filled with gravel that quickly carved through anything not solid rock. Some of the cuts are deep or wide or both, making for difficult crossings. But some are also “exposed” with a steep drop-off threatening a misstep.

Those are points of individual danger but the more serious threat is that until these cut-outs/drop-offs are repaired the pack train can’t get through. This is bad for business on both ends, the pack station and the camp.

The Sturtevant Conservancy board is working with Maggie Moran, owner of Adams’ Pack Station, to solve the problem and get on with the continuing work of preparing for when the canyon re-opens. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a full-body workout, otherwise known as trail work, click here to volunteer!

New Year’s Tough News

L.A. County technical drawing of the section of Chantry Flat road to be removed and replaced with a bridge. First the entire side of the canyon above this will be ‘rock-scaled’, which means scraping off/bringing down as much of the loose surface rock and dirt as possible.

We previously reported on the 2022 Chantry Flat road project to construct a new bridge, spanning 240 feet at mile marker 2.95, near the top of the road. Chantry Flat will be cut off with no vehicles allowed or even able to pass through for the duration of the work (proof of which is that Los Angeles County is paying for rental cars for those living at Chantry Flat.)

That’s the project, but not the news, which is the schedule. Work is to begin mid-February (weather permitting) with official completion targeted for mid-October of this year. But with an allowance for weather and supply delays plus corrections the road may not reopen until February, 2023.

Together with the Bobcat fire closure plus damaged trails, this means no public access to the Big Santa Anita Canyon via Chantry Flat from September, 2020 to around Christmas, 2022. That would be nearly two and a half years of shut down.

The impact on the camp and pack station are of course significant. Any creative work-arounds will be complicated. Hypothetically, the canyon could be opened to the public before the road project is finished; this would allow hikers to enter from Mt. Wilson and the back country, which could also be an opportunity for the camp to open to guests, and to engage the pack station for packing. Of course, that would still be complicated.

Stay tuned for head-scratching, brainstorming, and hopefully a few miracles.

One Way to Add Campers

The brightest smile in the canyon just got brighter: Board member Teah Vaugh-Piscopo looks forward to becoming a first-time mom in July. Congratualtions!

The Sturtevant Conservancy is expanding unexpectedly and joyfully. At our recent meeting, board member Teah Vaughn-Piscopo shared her good news that she and her husband Graham Piscopo will welcome their first child in July. Teah was quick to say that won’t keep her from the trail, and not even the typical dose of shoveling along the way, but lifting heavy stuff will be out since she’ll already be doing increasingly heavy lifting 24/7!

Along with everyone who has enjoyed her enthusiastic welcome into camp (and her yummy cookies), the board joins in wishing Teah and her family good health and progress; we’ve already signed up to take turns carrying the kid up to camp until Teah can lace-up some tiny hiking boots on the new munchkin!

New Year’s Goals FYI*

During the early phase of the pandemic shutdown, many people took the opportunity to clean out closets, organize photo files, and otherwise catch-up on deferred maintenance. With 2022 shaping up to be closed for the canyon and the camp, the board is likewise aiming to catch-up on a long list of to-do items, and to make some improvements. But not all of those are building fix-its and upgrades.

For example, once camp re-opens, the volunteer hosts will need a new operating manual based on changes caused from the Bobcat fire, including changes in the water system (draft title: “How to Make Happy Campers”). There are new insurance requirements for the guests’ safety orientation and there will be new kitchen and housekeeping protocols to prevent further bear damage. And, of course, there are many new stories to show-and-tell about the camp after the fire.

*For Your Invitation: the pool of camp hosts will need to be re-recruited, expanded and trained! If you’re interested, visit the Volunteer page.


Shoes Found

The flooded stream unearthed some antiques: this jumble of horse, mule and burro shoes was found at the high-water mark behind the generator shed. Likely they had been salvaged for use in craft projects back when children’s camps made souvenir plaques of their week at camp, and mounted them the dining hall rafters.


Ever-Changing Stream Beds

Looking at the trail crossing between the Honeymoon Cottage and the Mt. Zion & Mt. Wilson trails junction. The first storm filled in the stream bed with sand and gravel, and second storm carved it all out.


Crossing The Gap

Upper right, Paul Witman adjusts the safety rope for crossing above a missing and very exposed gap in the trail while Gary Keene ponders the drop-off from the edge of the exposure.

Upper right, Paul Witman adjusts the safety rope for crossing above a missing and very exposed gap in the trail, while Gary Keene ponders the drop-off from the edge of the exposure.

Categories
Camp News Camp Operations Volunteer

Board Introductions & Water Tank Update

Who We Are

Sturtevant Conservancy board members on a video conference call.
Video conference with the board members.

The Sturtevant Conservancy is a non-profit registered in California; its purpose is to sustain historic Sturtevant Camp for the public benefit, operating on land leased from the U.S. Forest Service.

The governing Board members are volunteers who supervise and manage the mission of the Conservancy, and the camp itself. Board members are recruited based on their “boots on the ground” commitment to the camp, as well as the diverse skills needed to operate the camp. These include guest hospitality, site operations and maintenance, marketing, financial management, lumberjacking and trail-building. All have the passion to share the Sturtevant experience with the public for the future.

Check out their bios and profile photos on the Who We Are page.

Four Hauled, Two Qued

We had the parts, the people and a plan—then if finally rained for real in the San Gabriels! The first run to deliver a water tank panel up to camp was delayed so that the trail could get worked back into shape (mostly). Plenty of shovels and shoulders were duly exercised!

Over the next few weekends, a variety of regular and newbie volunteers came together to manually haul the roughly 4x8ft curved steel panels up the main trail. Each time was an experiment with improvements the final delivery will be simple and almost easy. The chief factor was not weight but the wiggliness of the panel, and the persistently unstable trail.

The success was mostly because people were good at working together and sure-footed on the trail. A lot of new friendships were made, and future volunteers inspired. A good thing, because there is always more to do at Camp!

Binocular Report

Stay tuned for the end-of-the-year-holiday edition of the Big Cone Blog!